Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Fulgerites - and how research - leads to all kinds of weird places

Over and over during the years I've been writing, I've discovered how research can lead us into strange, weird and sometimes dark territories. Such is the case recently, when I happened to look up mica and its uses fr my steampunk novel, and then oddly enough, in that synchronistic way, up pops a video posted by Razvan Ciocanel, an artist whose covers graced one of my poetry books.
The post was a video by Markus Kayser, a graduate student from the Royal Academy of Art in Britain who did something quite amazing with a solar panel and sand - man made fulgerites to be exact.  Fulgerites are pieces of glass created when lightening hits sand in deserts such as The Sahara.  It heats up the silicone within instants creating glass tubes.
So now, thanks to this strange video I added a new location. Then I saw a piece of art by Captain Donald von Zimmer on Steampunk Empire .which blew me away showing airships and a very high dock, perhaps it is as high as London Bridge and upon it was a greenhouse!!!  A Glasshouse!!  How odd - the counterpoint between the metal airships and submersibles and the fragility of the greenhouse took me away so now there is a Mica Market suspended in the air to be included as an additional location. These two new locations are where pivotal scenes will take place. At first they were only going to be flashbacks and included in dialogue but they became so fully fleshed out thanks to a couple of chance finds during a research phase.
But now, as so often happens with research for me, these two tid-bits are now giving me ideas I have to further research so I've been page hopping like crazy and finding tons of wonderful wild scientific concepts to play with.
In between my house and the stone house where I take care of cats, I'm getting a lot of writing and sketching completed.  I've added over 5,000 words to my steampunk novel, Orchidelirium and have changed the plot a good bit so will have to go back and revamp chapters.
I'm also reading the Steampunk anthology by Jeff and Ann Vandermeer and there are a few stories in there which made me think - but none so far that have given me that "aha" moment.  I find some of them so action oriented that the characters are never really 3 dimensional or developed. I'm a little put out that two publications which accepted my stories have not honored their acceptance letter.  One of them in the steampunk world and the volume, I assume, will never be published.  Even the editor, who did everything right, doesn't know what happened.  The publisher just stopped communicating withe everyone.  I find this unfortunate because the story has now been out of circulation for over a year.  But these things are bound to happen to every author form time to time, so now I need to start it circulating again. been been published. 
I've also been trying to sketch out the characters a wee bit - just playing more or less seeing where I want to go and here are some of the ideas.  I'm thinking I might create some kind of a preview chapbook to have available at the Upstate Steampunk con during my stint at the author's table.  so I'm trying to come up with some kind of cover ideas.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Meeting Albert Einstein

No, this is not an altered history story, as some steampunk folks like to write and read, but a different kind of history jump or time travel, if you will.  Bare with me and I'll explain. Lat night, Einstein presented his amazing theories to a couple of hundred of so followers in Greenville on the campus of Greenville Tech beneath a huge tent. Fans were handed out and we were first treated to a young violinist, Steve Neal, who performed both Bach and songs meant for the fiddle such as Appalachian reels.  He performed because Einstein also plays the violin.  It says it help him to think and come up with his theories - so either Steve was meant to help the audience open they minds to these wild thoughts of Einstein or perhaps it was for Einstein himself to learn the ways to present his theories so a mainstream audience could understand. And that he did, with humor and insight, amazing with and odd little quirks and facial cues, he smoked his pipe and wrote on his chalkboard and explained his theories so we did, indeed, understand.  What an amazing and quirky man! Everything I'd pictured him to be, except perhaps for his level of wit and humor.  He loves to mystify first and then explain watching the awareness grow on the faces of his listeners. Granted he lapsed into scientific lingo and German form time to time but quickly observed the puzzled looks on our faces and backed up to explain.  He was honest about his personal life when questioned later and eagerly explained his beliefs that all scientists should study psychology and he reminisced about his days in Greenville, SC when he came to visit his son Hans who lived on Randal St. and worked in soil conservation with Clemson.  Einstein also described the sad days of  how his 5 year old grandson died of diphtheria in Greenville and is buried in Woodlawn and then the physicists went further back and spoke about his difficulties in World War 1 and World War II as a Jewish German.
Indeed, we became quite an intimate audience when a storm arose, the tent flapped and expanded, the skies threatened and people stopped waving the paper fans and looked at each other in fear.
"How I love a storm!" He said! I had to agree. After all he created many. I would have stayed out there no matter the weather as long as he was talking to us.
But the coordinators of the evening encouraged us to move inside out of harms way into one of the college's buildings. Because the auditorium was still locked, we all crowded into the small lobby, some folks sitting on the floor cross-legged, a few unlucky souls still outside the crowded doorway watching him through the windows as the winds picked up.  Einstein in his exuberant desire to continue his answer to a question jumped up on a chair (it was a bit difficult, he is a bit too old for such stunts) but he regaled us from the chair with the same energy and openness, making eye contact.  As we were then allowed to file into the auditorium,.I thought I would faint, just having one of the most brilliant minds of all time, walk by me within inches. Smiling, his eyes crinkled.  "How I love a storm!" 
Fortunately for us here in Greenville, there is a cultural anomaly called Chautauqua.  It started many years ago as a tent series and continues in a number of states.  Baltimore and Florida are the closest ones to us.  And the reason Einstein walked again in Greenville is because Chautauqua sponsors evenings with amazing historical figures who changed the face of history, authors, scientists, humanists and presidents, magicians and, humorists, plains women and political movers and shakers. But they don't do it in lecture form.  What is so  amazing is that the historical figure comes along before your eyes and you are transported back to their world. These are not ordinary actors but men and women who are also historians, nationally prominent historically interpreters who study for the parts for anywhere form a year to years. They know every little quirk and flaw, every secret story about the famous people they present.  They enjoy long question and answer sessions and answer form their hearts - Einstein revealed how, yes he did fudge his theory to maintain the idea that the universe was constant not expanding at a rapidly growing pace as is now theorized.  He admitted he messed up his math in the theory and was corrected by his high school math teacher. Only through a personal conversation with him, did we learn this.  He told us things he does not disclose to the press!
Larry Bonds was just mesmerizing.  I didn't feel as if I stepped back in time so much as I'd met Einstein in a sort of blended time, his time and ours, superimposed upon each other. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Living with Brain Injury Conference

So much to tell and so little time!!  Many of my blog readers know me as an author, publisher and artist but in my real world job I work as in rehabilitation supports for adults who have suffered traumatic brain injuries.  This past week was our annual conference, Life with Brain Injury in Columbia, SC, sponsored by the Brain Injury Alliance of South Carolina. What and exciting few days it was!  The panels were awesome and I was fortunate to be involved with the one my boss at HASCI produced, called "Rewriting My Story."
The presentation featured interviews with three of our clients and focused on ways people find meaning and purpose in life after brain injury.  My interview was with a client of mine who I assist in a number of ways, but most recently in helping him get his first short story published in the online and print magazine Sein and Werden out of Britain. He is an exceptional writer in an avant garde surrealist way and this was his first publication. What is even more incredible is that he wrote a fictional story about his immediate experiences after he awoke from his coma and he wrote it a year after his injury.  Amazing for someone who can no longer read due to visual scanning issues or type due to left hand neglect. But he's great with computers and uses assisstive technology such as a program on his MAC which speaks out loud anything he highlights in emails,Word, etc and another program called Dragon Dictate which will type what he says into a microphone. 
The conference included a number of experts in the field with very valuable presentations and panel discussions. I learned so much in a very short time and enjoyed meeting others invested in brain injury from all over the state. The hotel was very nice, except for the fire alarm going off three times during the wee hours of the first morning we slept there.  And I felt very fortunate that the painting and drawing I donated to the silent auction sold at good prices all to benefit the Brian Injury Alliance. I also won a great circa 1967 great print, Pirate's Alley, by New Orleans/San Francisco artist, Don Davey in the auction so the trip turned out to be kind of a working working vacation for me. I didn't get to see much of Columbia, a city I'm fascinated but not too familiar with, and there was no time to visit The Whig or the book store I love, but it was a highly beneficial trip in so many ways. Its given me new inspiration and ideas for the Drop in Center and my individual sessions. I'm lucky to work with the most amazing, courageous, caring  and always interesting folks I work with - both staff and clients.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Upstate Steampunk at the Velo Fellow

What a great time at the Velo Fellow (located in downtown Greenville, S,C beneath Mellow Mushroom) for the Upstate Steampunk group for our June 2011 dining out. The minute I walked in the door, I loved the ingenuity in the decor - the Tesla touches, the salvaged industrial items turned into everything from tables to lighting. Everywhere you looked there were Victorian and Steampunk touches - the owners must have ransacked a number of outmoded architectural and industrial sites to dig up such goodies. Black leather wing chairs and couch for relaxing, high tops, low tops, shuffle board and not to mention the massive Victorian era bicycle on the wall -- all just to welcome both the road-weary or adventurous time traveler.    
Organizers extraordinaire, Gypsey and Marla found us the perfect place, a publik house like the old days where you go to hang out with old friends, (Bethany and Michelle, Marcus, Braxton and Sarah, Elizabeth and Tara, Josh, Minerva and meet new ones such as Tina (jeweler) and Morlowe (diesel punk).  The conversations rushed and rambled from jewelry making to DYI mechanics and electronics, music to quantum physics, creativity to making goggles.  The atmosphere was charged up with insights, inspiration and ideas (as was Josh in the parking lot with his fire display from his handmade electrical finger mini flame thrower device. Steampunkers were already placing orders just from this one demo).  
The staff were awesome, the menu diverse (everything from real genuine sheperds' pie with beef, lamb, veggies and mashed potatoes to fried green tomatoes or fried dill pickles. The bar is awesome with micro breweries on hand for the beer lovers, not to mention more than one make of Absinthe on the shelves. Death in the Afternoon - Absinthe and champagne was the drink of the evening at our table.  -  
The wait staff was on point all night, the food top rate - all proving the owners and staff of The Velo Fellow knows their way to the steampunk clockwork heart.
Addendum:  As an added bonus - a reconnection with the Steampunk world (now encapsulated in the Velo Fellow) I was inspired to get back to writing my steampunk novel, Orchidelirum, and have added another chapter - only a few more to go and it will be finished and ready for editing! Marla and Gypsey nailed me and yes I have now signed up to do a presentation on "The Psychology of Steampunk" and accepted a slot at the author's table at the Upstate Steampunk Extravaganza to be held Sept. 30-Oct 2.  That serves as incentive to finish the novel!  

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Steampunk ,The Velo Fellow & Tim Holtz kraft glassine

Timing sometimes appears like a gift.  I have to admit, I haven't been thinking much about steampunk lately.  But with photos from the World Steam Expo online, including the Black Ibis Tarot from the creative people at Insects & Angels, and the upcoming meet up this Saturday at The Velo Fellow, a steampunk pub if I've ever seen one, I'm getting back in the mood.  I have some vintage photos I want to copy and use in collage, but had little inspiration lately.  Not until just this morning when I saw the coloration of the tarot and here I was wondering how on earth I could get that same incredibly saturated sepia effect.  And then today Tim Holtz posts new instructions  and wow - it's just the right material especially since you can inkjet print on it.  I can't wait to get some and try this out.  Amazing stuff especially when it comes to Steampunk items.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

First Fridays and Famers Markets

May continues as a major art month in Greenville, SC, with over 30 galleries and art studios in the Pendleton Street Arts District.  Once again we made the rounds and saw old friends and new at the various galleries.  One highlight was to meet Charles Pate, the son of sculptor, Charlie Pate, JR  Charles came to my attention via the news when his sculpture of a man carving himself out of a tree was unveiled on the corner of Main and Perry.  It's an amazing lifesize piece rigorous in its action exquisite in its detail.  Awe inspiring, indeed.  And then Lindy, Vicki, Julia and I all agreed how a painting by Charles looked so much like our friend, Homer, the musician.  We stood in aw in front of the massive portrait full of lights and strength. We chatted with friends, Teresa at Art & Light Gallery and Suzanne at Millagro Studios, Urban Peacock (Kavita) at The Village Studios, along with Tricia Earle and Dabney Mahanes, and Julia and Vicki, who collect art form all the cities they live in, purchased another. This time it was one of the crow drawings by Dabney. 
Saturday was a fun morning with another local favorite event, the weekly downtown Farmer's Market. Tents are set up on Main street outside the Westin Poinsett and local produce, cheeses, plants, art, pottery. I brought my sketchbook with me and worked on another drawing while waiting for Mark and then we sauntered around where I bought some tomatoes and hand-shelled peas.  And we always enjoy our breakfast by Soby on the Side.
So of course, this means the writing is not happening right now, but it is re-energizing to be drawing again.  Drawing is not my usual approach to paint, I like color and texture, so collage, assemblages and paintings offered me more satisfaction in the past.  But now for some reason, I'm finding it highly rewarding to sketch - getting back to my fascination with the face and figure. 
I'm also framing some artwork, some of my own for future shows and some for my daughter's new condo.  She has been building a collection of original art since she was in her early twenties and now has quite a nice variety of art all by Greenville artists.
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